Student lobbies for Greek life causes on Capitol Hill
If you’re part of Furman’s Greek community, you never know when you’re going to run into another member of Furman’s fraternity and sorority community. Chloe Treible ’24 had that experience this spring on Capitol Hill.
It wasn’t a coincidence, of course. Treible, a member of Furman’s Zeta Tau Alpha chapter, had gone to Washington, D.C., to meet a host of people, including Darcy Merline ’20, a Kappa Delta and senior legislative assistant on the Hill. She had also planned to meet Merline’s boss, U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, and visit the offices of all the other representatives and senators from South Carolina. And she wasn’t alone: She was one of many sorority and fraternity members nationwide chosen for the 2023 Fraternal Government Relations Coalition Capitol Hill Visits April 18 and 19.
The FGRC is a collaborative effort between the North American Interfraternity Conference, National Panhellenic Conference, Fraternity/Sorority Political Action Committee and Fraternity and Sorority Action Fund. Treible’s group was one of many teams to travel to Capitol Hill and lobby their home states’ congressional delegations.
“You can come from all over and have that immediate connection, because you’re all experiencing Greek life at your university,” she said. “I learned a lot about how the big picture affects everybody and how we can all come together and use each other’s stories to help the community in general.”
The first step for Treible was a day of training with her team, which included Bari Klarberg, current president of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity at the University of South Carolina. Each current member was paired with an alumnus or alumna, explained Treible, who met Casey Pash, a Zeta Tau Alpha alumna from Columbia, South Carolina. Klarberg was paired with Marc Katz, an attorney and past president of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Foundation; and Tom Decker, a business consultant and Delta Sigma Phi alumnus, rounded out the team. The lobbyists learned the details of the bills they’d be promoting and got tips on speaking to lawmakers and their staffs.
“I would say I’ve been prepared very well for that as a double major in communication studies and philosophy,” said Treible. “And my poverty studies minor helps me talk about big issues that are affecting a lot of people.”
The next day, Treible headed to Capitol Hill, ready to lobby for the legislation.
HR 2451, the Republican-sponsored Freedom of Association in Higher Education Act, and HR 1626, the Democrat-sponsored Collegiate Freedom of Association Act, are both bills meant to protect members of “single-sex social organizations” from “adverse actions” from their universities.
“They both talk about students having the right to choose when they want to join Greek organizations – or any organization,” Treible explained.
Treible also lobbied for the Stop Campus Hazing Act, a cause she began championing while making a documentary on the Tucker Hipps tragedy for her Digital Storytelling class. The act, which has yet to be introduced, would promote transparency and education for every student on the dangers of hazing.
“Furman has a very good reputation for not hazing, so it may not be brought to light as much here,” said Treible. “So the education piece is key here. How do we continue what we already have, which is a healthy campus culture?”
‘The inner workings’
The lobbyists also supported HR 2662, the Collegiate Housing and Infrastructure Act, which would “allow tax-exempt charitable or educational organizations to make collegiate housing and infrastructure grants to certain tax-exempt social clubs (e.g., college fraternities and sororities) that apply such grants to their collegiate housing property,” according to the bill’s summary.
Regardless of the bills’ outcomes, it was a rewarding opportunity, said Treible.
“It was a great professional development experience,” she said. “This isn’t an opportunity that everyone has, to know what the inner workings are. To be on the front end of changing, that meant a lot to me.”